Blue Jays notebook: off-season rumours continue

Bob Nightengale (USA Today) tells Tim & Sid that the Blue Jays are indeed in on future Hall-of-Famer Ichiro Suzuki, and suggests the 41-year old wouldn’t cost much.

After starting the off-season with a flurry of moves, the Toronto Blue Jays have stayed quiet since the Dec. 3 acquisition of Michael Saunders.

But as always, the Blue Jays continue to pop up in rumours around the league, some more realistic than others. Here’s a closer look at some of the latest Blue Jays-centric chatter to surface:

INTEREST IN ICHIRO?: Ichiro Suzuki is drawing interest from the Blue Jays, Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. He’s a future Hall of Famer who’s just 156 hits shy of 3,000, but there are a number of caveats worth considering before getting carried away.

First of all, it’s worth noting that the Blue Jays check in on all kinds of players. Placing a call often amounts to due diligence, and more often than not the Blue Jays keep rumblings to a minimum when they are about to make a move.

Even if the interest is real, there’s the issue of playing time. The Blue Jays seem serious about giving Dalton Pompey a shot to join Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista in the starting outfield. While Toronto could use outfield depth, Ichiro was an everyday player in 2014, when he batted .284 with a .324 OBP.

Lastly there’s the cost. The Blue Jays are believed to have $5-7 million remaining as they continue to explore relief upgrades. Adding Ichiro would eat into Toronto’s budget, even if he takes a pay cut from the $6.5 million salary he earned last year.

Ichiro’s agent, John Boggs, told me at the Winter Meetings that his client still loves playing but isn’t in a rush to make a deal.

JAYS LINKED TO VLAD JR.: The Blue Jays are expected to sign Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for $3.2 million when the 2015-16 international signing period opens July 2, Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs reported. The 16-year-old son of Vladimir Guerrero has been generating plenty of interest from scouts, though he can’t sign until the summer.

Teams often reach informal agreements with international prospects before July 2, though nothing can become official before the signing period opens. McDaniel has suggested the Blue Jays are likely to spend well past their international bonus pool starting next July. Doing so would incur penalties but allow the Blue Jays to stock up on international talent.

While $3.2 million represents a large bonus, it’d still be well worth the investment for a player with the potential to make an impact at the MLB level.

Guerrero Sr. signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays three springs ago, but he never appeared in a game with the big league team.

NOT IN ON SHIELDS: The Blue Jays don’t appear to be in on James Shields, one of the top free agent starters available. But according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, they’d consider bidding if his price drops.

Shields has reportedly obtained a $110 million offer, so interest seems strong now. Given that he has averaged 233 innings with a 3.17 ERA since 2011, it seems unlikely that his market will bottom out. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have already made splashes at catcher and third base, so they seem more likely to rely on their current starting staff.

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